Rishikesh-Karanprayag line in Uttarakhand; a political lollipop

Dehra Dun: The much publicized Rishikesh-Karanprayag line, whose foundation was laid by much fanfare by the Congress on Nov 9, 2011 at Gauchar, in the run up to the vidhan sabha elections in Uttarakhand which were due in February 2012, has become a political lollipop, to be used by the ruling party to get mileage at the hustings.

Though the Congress failed to get a clear majority in the last vidhan sabha elections in this small mountain state, but the laying of the foundation stone definitely had an impact on the voters in the hilly areas of Uttarakhand. It was perhaps why the Congress fared better than it did in the plain areas of the state.

But after the laying of the foundation stone till the vidhan sabha elections the railway one was in the news to woo the voters, but after than it was more than forgotten. No work has been done on the proposed line, and even the much touted fresh survey was never undertaken.

Now with just over a year for the Lok Sabha elections, the issue is being raked yet again by the Congress. Union minister for water resources Harish Rawat at a meeting of party workers in Rishikesh recently minced no words to say that an outlay for the railway line would be made in the ensuing budget.

He went at length to say that the Congress was keen that the railway line is laid out for the development of the hilly tract of the state as it would not only uplift the economy of the region, but also provide the local people for an alternate and cheaper means of travel.
Meanwhile popular opinion amongst the people is that, with the Lok Sabha elections on the cards the centre may make an announcement for some outlay for the proposed railway line, to woo the voters. It is another issue that the money may actually not be spent on the ground, they feel.

Realising that the railway line has taken up political proportions, rather than its realistic need for the people of the state, general feeling is that the hill states continue to be neglected as far as increasing the railway network is concerned. A reason for this could be the high cost of laying railway lines in the hills, they contend.

It may be mentioned here that the proposed railway line to cost about Rs 4500 crores is likely to be ready in five years. There will be 19 tunnels on the track, the longest of which will be about 4.5 kms while the others will be about one km long and 128 bridges of which 45 will be major bridges. There will be six level crossings, 18 road over bridges and 20 under bridges, which will make it an engineering marvel.

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